By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
As chief prosecutor Robert Jackson, Alec Baldwin cuts an unusually dashing figure for a moonlighting Supreme Court justice, wire-rimmed spectacles notwithstanding, and his chaste romance with his assistant (Law & Order alum Jill Hennessey, without much to do but moon) seems as much mandated by his leading-man status as by the flirtation’s possible basis in fact. (Nothing much is done with it anyway.) Baldwin, who hacks around in real-world politics, is a genuine true believer, and has about him a gee-whiz quality — “The Nazis on trial at Nuremberg,” the movie’s press book quotes the actor as saying, “were like the New York Yankees of bad guys” — evocative of a kind of old-fashioned midcentury American optimism that suits his character; Judge Jackson’s quixotic notion was to make “aggressive war,” such as Hitler waged, illegal. It’s been a long time, locked as we are into the ironic stance that seems the only defense against a world in which George W. Bush might be elected president, since we could be so beautifully naive.
And so we bid arrivederci to Nancy Marchand, who left this life a day before her 72nd birthday, lauded and laureled for her portrayal of the compulsively manipulative Livia Soprano on television’s most prestigious series. (That would be The Sopranos.) It was a good part, obviously — layered and ambiguous in ways that TV roles rarely are — but it also seems to have become a better one as it grew clear to the writers what Marchand could do with it. “Bravely disheveled” I called her performance last year; it was an egoless rendition of egomania. Marchand’s Livia compounded self-pity, confusion and need with a coldness of purpose in such a way that it was difficult to know where pottiness ended and plotting began. All in all it was one of the most interesting, least sentimental portrayals of senior citizenship ever to grace the tube.
Marchand had a deep background in theater and a smattering of film credits, but was finally best known for her television work, which included series and miniseries, a couple of soap operas, and guest shots from Cheers to Homicide; apart from Livia, her most significant parts were as the Katharine Graham–ish Mrs. Pynchon on Lou Grant and, going back to that age called Golden, as Clara, opposite Rod Steiger in Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty, an event the medium still wears like a merit badge. That Marchand was critically ill during The Sopranos’ last season was public knowledge, and the show accommodated and to some extent exploited her condition — though, of course, the one thing Tony Soprano would not expect his mother ever to do was die. I’m no fan of Death, but I’m less one of Decline, and to see an artist go out working and at the top of her game is still somehow a wonderful thing.SURVIVOR | CBS | Wednesdays, 8 p.m.
TOTALLY CIRCUS | Disney Channel | Fridays-Sundays, 4 p.m. | Repeats Fridays and Saturdays, 11:30 p.m.
NUREMBERG | TNT | Sunday-Monday, July 16-17, 8 p.m.
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